Interview Interview on Gazeta, national newspaper in Poland in 2016
On April 3, 2016 we saw the largest data leak in history. The Panama Papers exposed rich and powerful people hiding vast amounts of money in offshore accounts. Having in mind your artwork from 2013 – “Loophole For All” where in a subversive way, by democratizing the opportunity to not paying the taxes for everyone, you are criticizing the tax haven on Cayman Islands – can you tell me what was your first reaction?

PC: I wasn’t much surprised. I researched on international offshore finance for long time and I am very aware of the scale of it. These leaks of such secretive data are going to be incremental over the years. We shouldn’t forget other former leaks, such as the Luxemburg Leak and the VatiLeaks about the scandal of The Vatican Bank in 2013. Panama was known already as one of the major offshore centres, I was even in touch with someone who tried to hack in their company registry in 2010 already.

Does this situation might change anything in the global politics of the economy? Can that kind of hacktivism be the opportunity to fix the system, which is based on corruption, tax evasion, poverty and instability? When not what it takes to change it?

PC: The amount of data published with the Panama Paper leaks is astonishing, however having the information on those companies and individual is not enough, if there isn’t international legislation and pressure on the use of those structures. For instance after the LuxLeaks the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker never resigned over his complicity in helping tax avoidance at heart of Europe, and people didn’t pressure him too.
Nevertheless, Internet is a very powerful instrument we have to make information public and interfere with abuse of powers without the use of violence and propaganda. Our world is truly changing because of it. After a century of one directional media as newspaper, radio and TV, where truth was fabricated and action manipulated, now with the internet every single individual can offer information that potentially is directly reviewed by many. Therefore with the Internet there is a new appreciation for truth, authenticity and democratic change. And that is why the former structures of power are more repressive and they try to control and manipulate the entire Internet, they are worry about the change that it can bring.

The politic of participation. Is this a future?

PC: It can be the future, however it’s not only a technical question, but a cultural and educational one. Unfortunately I don’t know if today people are ready to participate if they aren’t informed on the issues they can decide on. You can have the perfect system in place to have a great democracy, but first of all you need to have people engaged with the factual information, so that they can make right decisions, while spreading the culture of democracy so that people want to participate.

What is for you the new type of autonomous global democracy?

PC: The decentralization of power through the paradigm of the network would create social architectures that autonomously manage local needs and would enable collaboration on global issues through independent social network platforms. Instead of the current centralized power of governments and companies, we will see several types of autonomous networks working together for the benefit of the whole organism. Networks of active cells collaborating as independent social structures can be the archetype of equilibrium and self-governance for every community and the entire planet.

You are taking under the microscope the most powerful and big companies like Facebook, Amazon, Google etc. Trying to show their gap in the system you are also very often acting on the border of legacy. How do you manage to avoid lawsuits? Do you have a lawyer with whom you are working with?

PC: No, I usually don’t need a lawyer. I know enough the subjects and my strategies to create forms of legal check mate to make it very hard to sue me. Then when I receive legal threats, I do what they ask me and use it as proof against them by publishing their threats. However it’s always very difficult for them to sue me, as they would have a very bad press backlash by trying to sue an artist know internationally.

Your strategy in your artistic work seems to be very elaborated. Each project seems to be based on a big research. Many interviews, much data. And also knowledge. How long does it take for you to prepare that kind of work, what is your artistic strategy?

PC: It takes me between one and two years. Mainly it’s research on legal and economic issues. Then I think a lot about what is best strategy to maximize the reactions, and then all the form of presentation as an artwork and therefore the artistic and social qualities.

Your two last projects called “Obscurity” are focusing on the lack of control over the visuality in the Internet. Surveillance seems to be on of the most crucial topic right now in Poland in the context of new rules for collecting by the special services telecommunications data and Internet data. How can we make people more aware of their property and rights in the Internet?

PC: Surveillance is something from the above, usually authorities have interest to surveil their citizens to control dissent against their interests. Instead privacy is something broader and it can be abused also from your friends on Facebook. In this particular project, Obscurity, I examine online judgment, the rating, that taken to its extreme it is online shaming. I’m interested in the ethics and aesthetics around it, both concerning algorithms and individuals that rate and score others. With the participatory model proposed, everyone can decide to keep or remove an individual public criminal record. I like to invent systems of participation, as they can be structured to channel flows of social dynamics for creative forms of societies. It is a preposition, “what if” everyone could judge people online accused of a crime like an open jury and give a verdict on whether they are to be forgiven or punished by society. The project also questions what kind of information would be necessary to make a fair judgment. I’d not be surprised if tribunals one day will have this type of online public forums.

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